Let’s Talk Contraception: New Developments in Contraceptives for Women

Image: Microchips Biotechnology

Image: Microchips Biotechnology

With the availability of an array of birth control methods ranging from pills to patches, from rings to shots, from male condoms to female condoms, and from implants to intrauterine devices, you might think there is no need for further research into contraception. But not all women around the world have access to the choices that many of us reading this article might take for granted. In fact, many have no access to contraceptives at all.


What do you think about a birth control implant that lasts 16 years and can be activated by remote control?


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is leading the charge in the development of new types of contraceptives for women, especially those who live in areas of the world without easy access to modern contraceptives. According to the World Health Organization, 225 million women in developing countries would like to delay or stop childbearing, but are not using any method of contraception. By giving large grants through their foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates are providing the financial backing for contraceptive research and drug development, which will enable women worldwide to take control of their health — and the health of their children.

In 2012, the Gates Foundation granted Microchips Biotech $6.7 million to develop a microchip implant containing the hormone levonorgestrel (which is a hormone in many oral birth control pills). This very small device, which measures only 20 millimeters by 20 millimeters by 7 millimeters, contains an internal battery and a microchip holding tiny reservoirs of the hormone. The device is implanted under the skin of a woman’s buttocks, upper arm, or abdomen. Once implanted, it releases 30 micrograms of levonorgestrel into the body each day when a small electrical charge inside the chip melts an ultra-thin seal around the hormone reservoir to release the daily dose of medication. Continue reading

Care Is Here Because She’s Seen a World Without Planned Parenthood

Children in West Africa. Photograph courtesy of Care.

Children in West Africa. Photograph courtesy of Care.

Our newest blogger is named Care, who shares with us the lessons she learned as a Peace Corps volunteer in this powerful piece.

My relationship with Planned Parenthood has grown and evolved over my life. When I was a kid, my dad, who was a clinic escort for Planned Parenthood, would tell me how important their work was and how thankful I should be every day for it. He used to walk up to anti-abortion people and ask them how many kids they had adopted, or offered to adopt, during their time as protesters.


In West Africa, there are no coat hangers. There are a lot of bicycle spokes, though.


I was never more than cursorily interested in Planned Parenthood and what they did though. Sure, they did STD prevention and treatment. Sure, they did women’s health. Sure, they did abortion services. But, like most people who grew up post-Roe v. Wade, that last one meant little to me. I never knew a world where abortions and birth control were inaccessible. I never knew a world where condoms and safer sex were not taught. So it is understandable that my dad, who would tell me about girls he knew who were seriously injured or even killed by back-alley abortions, would be more of an activist than I was.

This all changed in 2006. I was 23 years old and a Peace Corps volunteer. I was assigned to a village in a remote part of West Africa. The community told me that what they really needed was someone to help out in the “hospital,” a rural health clinic, the only one in the district. We served more than 20 villages in two countries. I was lucky — I worked with dedicated people who cared more about the welfare of the community than anything else.

One of these things was helping with women who had “fallen off a bicycle.” For the first time in my life, I was living in a place where abortion was illegal. Continue reading

Happy New Year and Family Planning for All!

world health family planningHappy New Year! With the start of the Affordable Care Act this year and birth control available to many American women without a co-pay, we have made great strides to decrease unintended pregnancies in the United States. I was about to write about new contraceptives that may be coming down the pipeline that could add to the already vast array of choices American women have for family planning. As I lay in my warm bed, thankful for being safe and well fed, I thought about women around the world who do not have the choices I have. They aren’t reading articles about new advances in contraceptive choices. Many have no access to contraceptives at all. Globally, 222 million women have an “unmet need for contraception.”


Let’s create a healthier world where we all have access to family planning!


One of the most essential ways to increase a woman’s health and independence is to provide access to family planning. When women have access to contraception, fewer unintended pregnancies result and also fewer unsafe abortions. Women who continue to have unintended pregnancies risk not only their health and the health of their child, they also have fewer educational and economic opportunities. When a woman is able to time and space her pregnancies, the woman, her children, and her community fare better. In communities where rapid population growth is related to unintended pregnancies, social and economic progress is impaired.

Limited access to contraceptives is just a part of the problem. Fear of using modern contraceptives such as the birth control pill also contribute to decreased use of some contraceptives. In many countries, religious and cultural values may have an impact on family planning efforts. Lack of  donor support to put programs of education and access in place are also a factor, especially when many political discussions associate family planning with abortion. Continue reading